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Librarians of Top Research Universities gather at PKU

OCT . 23 2015
Peking University, Sept 24, 2015: On the 23rd to 25th of September 2015, Peking University hosted the Librarians’ Contact Group of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) for a Librarians’ Meeting at the Peking University library. Representatives of seven IARU member universities were in attendance, from the University of Oxford, University of Copenhagen, Yale University, Australian National University, ETH Zürich, National University of Singapore and Peking University. 

Group photo on the steps of the Peking University Library
From left: Lee Cheng Ean (NUS), Roxanne Missingham (ANU), Susan Gibbons (Yale), Rafael Ball (ETH Zürich), Richard Ovenden (Oxford), Zhu Qiang (PKU) and Kira Stine Hansen (UCPH)
On the morning of the 24th of September, Librarians gathered at a conference room at the Peking University Library. After taking a group photo, the meeting commenced with a Benchmarking Report presented by Rafael Ball, Director of ETH Library, followed by a discussion on the refinement of the report. During the process, Peking University Director Zhu Qiang pointed out the importance of data gathering to meaningfully assess the development and situation of the member libraries as well as for reviewing and drafting pertinent policies.
The benchmarking report was followed by a presentation by Zhu Qiang on the topic ‘Establishing a New Scholarly Communication Ecosystem’. During this presentation, Zhu Qiang emphasized the role of the modern library in open access and scholarly communication. He also introduced several projects in China that serve to organize the academic output ecosystem. One of these is China Academic Library & Information System (CALIS), a national collaborative project of which Peking University is chair, to create a platform for modern scholarly communication. The presentation also introduced the open access policies taken up by many Chinese agencies such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, as well as the Open Scholars project at PKU, along with other PKU collaborations. 

Hard at work: IARU representatives exchanging ideas during the meeting
In an interview, the librarians were asked what they thought makes a good library. Their responses mostly concerned quality: quality of service, resources, staff and facilities, as well is good integration into the educational curriculum of the university. ‘Passion,’ said Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian at Australian National University, a sentiment with which all the librarians agreed with.
Susan Gibbons, University Librarian at Yale University pointed out that while libraries often collaborate on a national level, IARU is one of the few alliances between libraries that are truly international. According to Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian at University of Oxford, the IARU Librarians’ Contact Group was created because libraries are collaborative organizations - no library can meet the information needs of its users alone. IARU is ‘a gathering of the best’, where member libraries from around the world can learn from each other and respond to issues on teaching and learning and research internationally, giving its members a valuable global picture. ‘Within the IARU there are different groups meeting, and each of us was given the freedom to determine what the agenda should be and where the points of common interest lie,’ says Susan Gibbons.
Being able to support the academic mission of the university by providing access to information is a big part of the responsibilities shouldered by university libraries, and in today’s information rich era, this proves a significant challenge in scholarly communications. ‘As some aspects of the world of information are growing exponentially, being able to guide users to the most authoritative and reliable sources when there is so much information available is a challenge,’ says Richard Ovenden. Another challenge that seems to burden many university libraries is funding – the cost of material from commercial sources continues to rise while the budget to acquire them is not increasing at the same rate.Lee Cheng Ean, University Librarian at the National University of Singapore, indicates that hiring people with the right qualifications for the emerging roles also presents itself as a challenge. ‘It is also necessary to look at which challenges will come in ten or twenty years as we go further away from the textual basis of scholarly communication to newer kinds of information material,’ says Rafael Ball.
Background Information:
IARU (International Alliance of Research Universities) was established in 2006 to be an international network of ten research-intensive universities. The members of this alliance include the seven universities mentioned above, as well as the University of Cambridge, University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Tokyo. IARU member universities cooperate to address common challenges facing research universities. Numerous committees consisting of representatives of each IARU member university, such as the Librarians’ Contact Group and the Research Administrators’ Network meet regularly for meaningful discussion and exchange.
Reported by: Candice Liao Shunyi

Edited by: Zhang Jiang